Category

Thunderbird Legend 
Passamaquoddy Tribe

The Passamaquoddy tribe lived in Maine and New Brunswick. They were friendly with the French and English, and relations were fairly good until the French and Indian War (1754). The tribe still exists today with a population of about 800, and they reside near Calais, Maine, at the Canadian border.

The following story is called An Indian Transformed into a Thunder, and is about a man that becomes a Thunder. Thunder are spirits in the sky that we see and hear during storms. The Thunder-men chase a bird to the south, the legendary Thunderbird. The story may have originated as an Inuit or Eskimo story.

"Once an Indian was whirled up by the roaring wind. He was taken up in a thunderstorm, and set down again in the village of the Thunders. The Thunders were like human beings, except they had wings. But these wings can be laid aside, and kept for use. And from time to time their chief gives these Thunders orders to put them on, and tells them where to go. He also tells them how long they are to be gone, and warns them not to go too low, for it is sure death for them to be caught in the crotch of a tree.

The great chief of the Thunders, hearing of the stranger's arrival, sent for him, and received him very kindly, and told him that he would do well to become one of them. To which the man being willing, the chief soon after called all his people together to see the ceremony of metamorphosis of the Indian.

Then they bade him go into a box, and while in it he lost his senses and became a Thunder. Then they brought him a pair of wings, and he put them on. So he flew about like the rest of the Thunders; he became quite like them, and followed all their ways. And he said that they always flew towards the south, and that the roar and crash of the thunder was the sound of their wings. Their great amusement is to play at ball across the sky. When they return they carefully put away their wings for their next flight. There is a big bird in the south, and this they are always trying to kill, but never succeed in doing so (a Thunderbird or Wochowsen).

They made long journeys, and always took him with them. So it went on for a long time, but it came to pass that the Indian began to tire of his strange friends. Then he told the chief that he wished to see his family on earth, and the Chief listened to him and was very kind. Then he called all his people together, and said that their brother from the other world was very lonesome, and wished to return. They were all very sorry indeed to lose him, but because they loved him they let him have his own way, and decided to carry him back again. So bidding him close his eyes till he should be on earth, they carried him down.

The Indians saw a great thunderstorm drawing near; they heard such thunder as they never knew before, and then something in the shape of a human being coming down with lightning; then they ran to the spot where he sat, and it was their long-lost brother, who had been gone seven years.

He had been in the Thunder-world. He told them how he had been playing ball with the Thunder-men; yes, how he had been turned into a real Thunder himself."

Native Americans believed that the thunder and lightning they heard and seen were caused by spirits known as Bed-dag yek (thunder). The Indians could also pick up a thunder bolt, as they were a type of stone. Finding such a stone was a sign of good luck.

The thunder is the sound of the wings of the men who fly above. The lightning is the fire and smoke of their pipes.

Another story is about a woman who marries a Thunder and bears a son that sounds like rolling thunder.

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